It's about 9pm when we arrive - it's pitch dark outside but the hotel and its grounds are lit cosily with fairy lights. In reception, an Omani in traditional dress greets us cheerfully and checks us in. We are accompanied to our top-floor room along a rather dull hallway with worn carpets and lights flickering on and off.
The hotel is situated on a low cliff-edge just before the small town of Khasab, the small Musandam capital. It's about a 45-minute drive from the Oman-UAE border at Tibat, and the road from here to the hotel is perhaps the region's most spectacular, winding through small seaside villages, green wadis and alongside plunging cliffs, empty beaches and crystal clear water. It's a great place to base yourself before and after a dhow cruise or a 4x4 trip into the mountains.
There isn't much happening in Khasab itself, and there are only two hotels, the Golden Tulip and the Khasab Hotel. A previous stay at the cheaper but rather grim latter place tells me that although the Golden Tulip is expensive, it's by far the best of the two. It only opened in 2003, but for some reason, possibly due to decor and it's geographical isolation, the hotel feels like it's stuck in a 1970s time warp - although charmingly so. The Darts Bar on the ground floor, with cosy red seating, dark wood and framed pictures, is probably the nerve centre of the action in Khasab, and it had only four other patrons when we were there. Evenings are disarmingly laid-back and relaxing, because you feel like you're a long way away from Dubai, Abu Dhabi, or even Dibba. There's an attractive pool at the front of the hotel and a kid's play area - the ground floor rooms that open out onto this are best for families.
The hotel has 60 rooms, most of which are heavily booked by European groups on diving trips or Gulf-based families and couples. The hotel is currently being expanded to increase capacity. Our room was at the end of the corridor on the third floor of the main building, facing the sea. It was a decent size with a large balcony with sliding doors and a set of white plastic table and chairs. The room was basic but clean and comfortable, with a spotless tiled floor, hot shower, very comfy twin beds with crisp sheets and good pillows, and tea and coffee-making facilities. It was just what we needed after the three-and-a-half-hour drive from Abu Dhabi. In the morning, we woke to a lovely view of the sea and mountains.
A lamp at one of the bedside tables wasn't working and a maintenance man failed to fix it - but we were too tired for reading anyway. We became locked out of our room when our keys failed, necessitating a long walk back down to reception. A member of maintenance staff then knocked on our neighbour's door and got through their balcony into our room and let us in from the inside. Not sophisticated service but it did the job. Drinks in the Darts Bar were brought to us without any rush or fuss, which suited the general atmosphere. Both dinner and breakfast were buffets, but milk and extra accoutrements were delivered quickly enough. One of the benefits of being at the hotel is that it's the meeting point for many of the local tours: the hotel can also arrange trips.
The barbecue buffet dinner on the outdoor terrace, with views of the sea, was tasty, with fresh fish, meat, and a good selection of salads and desserts ($36; Dh133). The buffet excluding the barbecue was less exciting; however, there was an adequate selection of local dishes and decent meze including labneh, tabbouleh and moutabal. There's no competition so it's probably the best dinner you'll get for miles ($28; Dh105). Breakfast was disappointing, with warm milk for tea, greasy hash browns, a lack of fresh fruit juice and poor-tasting coffee.
The comfy beds and waking up to a sparkling blue sea and fresh air. The time-warp Darts Bar and sunset on the outdoor terrace.
The less-than-chic appearance of the hotel, including its orangey-salmon exterior and in-need-of-updating interiors, should soon be addressed. Trying to get a room at short notice in busy months can be a pain.
The hotel is a welcome retreat away from the dust, dirt and noise of the UAE, and an asset in a area of stark natural beauty.
Double rooms cost from $228 (Dh838) per night, including taxes and breakfast. Golden Tulip Resort Khasab, Oman (www.goldentulipkhasab.com; 00 968 26 73 07 77). email@example.com